Unexpected Character

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"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."
Masahiro Sakurai on the inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer, Super Smash Bros.

Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. The Hero, The Lancer, the Ensemble Darkhorse... no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a One-Scene Wonder, someone who had succumbed to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, or simply a Living Prop, or even someone from outside the franchise.

In video games, particularly Mascot Fighters, Kart Racers, and other Massive Multiplayer Crossovers, this can also include characters from games that were obscure or never left their home country, or games whose genre puts them outside that game's purview. Ironically common examples of the latter two include characters from a nonviolent game (or with a nonviolent role in the game) appearing as combatants, or a pilot/driver stepping out of their machine and showing they're just as competent on foot, if not moreso.

Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales in the unexpected addition, which is actually pretty sound business sense.

Due to the ease of slipping in outside characters in a Fighting Game (both in terms of mechanics and plot), Guest Fighter can be considered a particularly common subtrope.

Remember, Examples Are Not Recent.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • No one had expected Robin to join the Straw Hats. Granted, she had helped Luffy and betrayed Crocodile but it made her more of a wild card and after the battle, she had disappeared. Then just as the crew leaves Alabasta, Robin appears out of nowhere and requests to Luffy to join which he nonchalantly agrees. Added to that is that throughout the entire Baroque Works arc, Vivi had been played up as the potential next member of the Straw Hats, until she turned down the offer to stay behind and rebuild Alabasta right before Robin joined.
    • Most people wrote Bellamy out as dead, and it's not hard to see why, seeing as his boss is Doflamingo and he went and pissed the guy off by losing to Luffy. Come chapter 704, not only is he still alive and still under Doflamingo's employment, he's also a participant in the tournament for the Mera Mera no Mi. Also, the appearance of Jesus Burgess was likewise something nobody could have seen coming. Later on, the supposedly long-dead Sabo has shown up.
  • Pokémon:
    • After the Advanced Generation series ended, it was general consensus that Wallace, Gym Leader in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Champion in Emerald, was another addition to the many game characters that got Adapted Out in the anime. To everyone's surprise, he shows up in the middle of the Diamond and Pearl series as part of Dawn's story, hosting a special Pokémon Coordinator tournament that bears his name.
    • The Best Wishes series has Clair from Pokémon Gold and Silver showing up. Sure she and the majority of the Generation I-IV Gym Leaders show up at the Pokémon World Tournament in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, but that's more an optional encounter.
    • Ash had Charizard rejoining his team, and not just for a big match like his previous returns, sticking around for the rest of the Best Wishes series. A couple of the other Pokémon Ash has captured could also qualify. For example, no one was expecting him to catch Muk, since in its debut, it actually received the least amount of focus out of all the Pokémon that appeared in that episode, only appearing briefly in a couple of scenes.
    • The Mewtwo from Genesect and the Legend Awakened is something of a double whammy - few were expecting Mewtwo to return, but no one was expecting it to be a different individual altogether, due to the backstory (and the logistics thereof) of the first one. To quite a lot of fans, this was far from a pleasant surprise as a result.
    • Clement's fourth Pokémon is Luxio - something no one saw coming. First off, it's a 'Mon from a generation not being actively promoted, and secondly, it's not even in the Kalos Dex (all three of them!).
  • Gundam Build Fighters:
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try continues this trend with the Winning Gundam revealed to be a modified Captain Gundam. And also, Domon Kasshu.
  • Continuing the Gundam examples, the manga MSV-R: The Return of Johnny Ridden features the return of yet another major character, namely Yazan "I'm Gonna Violate You" Gable.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    In addition to Yugi and Kaiba you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces on screen – characters previewed included Joey, Tristan, Tea, and even Bakura[.]
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V introducing alternate universe versions of Jack Atlas and Crow Hogan opened the floodgates of speculation on which other characters from past series would be brought back over the course of the show. The news that Kaito Tenjo from ZEXAL would be appearing in the Xyz Dimension arc was not entirely unexpected by the fandom, but the presences of Ed Phoenix and Asuka Tenjoin of GX certainly were, especially the latter due to their Out of Focus status in their home series.
  • Who where expected to see Captain Ginyu return in Dragon Ball Super's adaptation of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’?

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • An odd example from Calvin and Hobbes: The Series - the series finale "Black Rain" features none other than Slender Man as a major character. This has caused some rather mixed reactions from reviewers.
  • In Justice Society of Japan, given how Lelouch Lamperogue appears early on one would probably assume that Zero would be one of the first characters from that series to join the team. WROOOOONG. Shirley Fenette joins instead.
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, outside the Original Characters, all characters introduced are from Kamen Rider series. Hence it comes to a surprise when Yumeria Moegi appears in A Month of Sundays, having been fired and in search of a job.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The fic delights in this (something helped by the author appearing to have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of Marvel and other canons) but in particular, Jack O'Neill as the uncle of Carol Danvers? Harry befriending a young Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar and Diana of Themyscira? Harry Dresden as a consultant for SHIELD, the mentor of Bruce Wayne and later, the apprentice of Wanda Maximoff?
    • Namor, while very briefly alluded to once or twice, is one of the biggest surprises of all in chapter 71.
  • Mega Man Recut has plans to include every Robot Master in the series, and many appearing Robot Masters were unexpected.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, nobody expected the Mega Crew's leader to be Tiesel Bonne.
  • Imperfect Metamorphosis including PC-98 characters isn't unexpected, as many Touhou fanfictions do that. What was unexpected was that nearly all of them show up eventually, including really obscure ones like Kotohime, Rika and Konngara (the former of which plays a major role). And it was really unexpected when Rin Satsuki turns out to be a main character, as she was never in the games in the first place.
  • The first episode of Fantasy Kaleidoscope looks to be a straight retelling of Perfect Cherry Blossom, until going Off the Rails at the end with the appearance of Sanae three games early.
  • In the Danny Phantom fanfic series, Facing The Future Series, many readers were surprised to see the return of the ghost half that Tucker wished for.
  • In My Immortal, when Ebony is trapped in the past, Marty McFly, or rather, morti mcfli, shows up out of nowhere to bring her back to the present.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, a Holocron loaded with the Force ghosts of canon characters pops up—It Makes Sense in Context, but nobody saw that coming. Especially since the whole point was that "A long time ago..." had been taken extremely literally to the point where known Star Wars was considered ancient history.
  • Weiss Reacts:
  • In one Harry Potter fanfic, Hermione reveals halfway through the story that she is actually adopted. Her real father is... Bruce Wayne. With no prior indication whatsoever that this was a crossover.
  • Moonstuck having Changelings show up was somewhat unexpected, as the comic had started before they were introduced in the show. The real shocker however was the Big Bad being Discord, as not only was he the first character from the show other than Luna to appear, he also completely destroyed the common assumptions about the timeline (pretty much everyone had assumed that the comic was a metaphor for Luna's Enemy Within struggle with Nightmare Moon, not Luna and Celestia finding the Elements of Harmony.
  • The Ranma ˝ fanfic Heian Conglin is basically a darker version of Jumanji where Ranma and Shampoo are the players. Early on, Tokyo is evacuated due the game's jungle occupying the whole city, Ranma, Shampoo and Happosai (a past player) are trying to win the game... And then Panthyose Taro shows up from nowhere to demand that Happosai changes his name.
  • Webwork has a couple of examples of this, as no one expected oneshot Villains of the Week like Nivor and Origami to show up.
  • The Paperinik New Adventures fan comic L'Ultima Terra has two:
    • When Scrooge decides to form a superhero squad he summons the members of the (now disbanded) Ultraheroes (that is, Paperinika, Super Goof, Red Bat, Cloverleaf, Iron Gus, and Paperinik himself)… And the Masked Whitewasher, an obscure and klutzy (yet surprisingly effective) superhero present in Italian Disney comics.
    • After bringing his nephews to Grandma Duck so they'd be out of the line of fire when he faces Antares, Donald makes a phone call to his sister Della so she'd know where they are in case he doesn't survive.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Used towards the end of the Animorphs series. Arbon and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting What Happened to the Mouse?
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the Omen of the Stars finale The Last Hope, such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
    • When Dawn of the Clans, a prequel series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few WindClan battle strategies in Battles of the Clans) showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in The Sun Trail.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Watson (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a Final Destination novel in Victorian Britain.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
  • In the fifth book of Venus Prime, Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable Pompous Political Pundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be William Laird, the leader of the Free Spirit.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas pops up out of nowhere to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been Put on a Bus to play major roles much later. Sanian reappears in Sabbat Martyr, Sturnn reappears in Traitor General, and Agun Soric reappears in Only In Death. It also works in reverse for the author's other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in Eisenhorn and Ravenor respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
  • Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe would not have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases).
  • The Whoniverse book Time Lord Fairy Tales pulls this off twice by springing a surprise character on the reader well after a story is underway and the protagonists' plight has been established; moreover, they go on to play supporting roles in the action, albeit important ones. In "Helena and the Beast", it's the Twelfth Doctor; in "The Grief Collector", it's the Tenth. Also, while many familiar Whoniverse villains turn up in these Twice Told Tales, the presence of The Nimon, from one of the classic series' campiest serials in "Jack and the Wormhole" will likely surprise those who don't remember their televised appearance and recognize the new story's similar setup.

    Music 
  • Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Def Leppard, System of a Down, Linkin Park and... The Pretty Reckless?
  • Mass-artist compilations fall into this from time to time.
  • In a media crossover-example, Rhythm Games probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with Rock Band 3 ("The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and... Phoenix?"note ).
  • One such example is Just Dance, in which Top 40 tunes by artists such as Katy Perry, One Direction and Nicki Minaj co-exist alongside the likes of the Tetris theme, the William Tell Overture, and the Hatsune Miku cover of Ievan Polkka.
  • Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of Paramore, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Taylor Swift.
  • Kanye West's albums usually have at least one.
    • The College Dropout had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
    • Late Registration had both Mac and Foxx, but also included Lupe Fiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Jay-Z was feuding with him at the time, Nas on "We Major".
    • Graduation had Chris Martin of Coldplay.
    • 808s and Heartbreak had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne.
    • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Elton John, La Roux, Fergie (of The Black Eyed Peas), Chris Rock, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
    • Watch the Throne had fucking Otis Redding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
    • Cruel Summer had most of its' supporting cast like this - R. Kelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
    • Yeezus had King Louie and Assassin.
    • Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with 30 Seconds to Mars, Katy Perry or Madonna.
  • Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborated for the Collision Course mash-up. Few could've expected one of the biggest rappers in the world working with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
  • Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Drake, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and... Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine).
  • Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Tina Fey.
  • Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester.
  • Drake's "All Me" includes an introduction by... Aziz Ansari.
  • Nine Inch Nails turned some heads when the guest list for Hesitation Marks included Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
  • For some appearances in 1994 (including on Saturday Night Live) Tom Petty's drummer was Dave Grohl, previously of Nirvana. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
  • Tech N9ne and Serj Tankian had a very unusual - if compelling - collaboration.
  • Within Temptation's album Hydra featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.
  • Queens of the Stone Age had Julian Casablancas guest on Era Vulgaris and Elton FREAKING John of all people appear on their newest album. The results are actually awesome in both cases.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack, curated by Lorde, features mainly mordern female electronic/pop vocalists such as herself along with CHVRCHES, Charli XCX, Tove Lo, Ariana Grande, Bat For Lashes, Tinashe, HAIM, and... Grace Jones? Also rappers Q-Tip and Pusha-T appear in Stromae's "Meltdown" alongside Lorde and HAIM for an odd-yet-compelling collaboration. Also featured, perhaps most surprisingly of all given Lorde's feud with Diplo at the time, was Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande with "All My Love".
  • Few could've expected Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar to ever collaborate on a song together, but indeed they did in former's song "Bad Blood".
  • GaMetal has remixed some pretty weird songs, for example, there's a medley of tunes from Bionic Commando and, even stranger, the Final Boss theme from McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure of all things. Fittingly, the latter one was done as an April Fools' Day special, but it is a real song.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's annual Royal Rumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g. Honky Tonk Man in 2000, Diesel\Kevin Nash in 2011 and 2014), there are bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g. John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010), and every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g. Beth Phoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014). Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g. Jerry Lawler in 1996 and 2012, Michael Cole in 2012, JBL in 2014). One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was Drew Carey in the 2001 match. However, arguably the most shocking (or at the very least, surreal) entry, despite the countless rumors, reports, and even a statement from the TNA website all but outright telling us it would happen, was the debut of AJ Styles at the 2016 Royal Rumble in Orlando.
  • Intense Wrestling Inc was the only promotion operating in Macaela Mercedes's hometown of Cincinnati Ohio. It announced ahead of time that IWI would be booking talent from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. So when she made her debut near the end of 2002 and was matched against La Tigresa, a wrestler she knew nothing about besides being from Puerto Rico, she was caught off guard. Even if they had mentioned wrestlers from Puerto Rico, Tigresa wouldn't have been on most people's radar stateside, given women's wrestling had virtually vanished from the island following her arrest four years prior for a smuggling case that was expected to keep her behind bars for decades.

    Web Original 
  • Suburban Knights:
  • Viari's return in the second half of Acquisitions Incorporated season 8 came as a huge surprise to everyone except himself and Chris. Firstly, he was explicitly Put on a Bus and replaced by a new intern in the first game of the season. Secondly, there have never been more than four players at an AI table before (in fact, said table is physically designed for four players)—much less two interns at once. Lastly, the mid-season recap foreshadowed the return of Aeofel, the series' original intern, making no mention of Viari at all.
  • Death Battle occasionally brings in little known and unexpected characters to fight for their lives. Two of the more notable examples being Bucky O'Hare, coming from a fairly obscure comic and cartoon series from the 70's/90's and took on Fox McCloud, and Yang Xiao Long, who is from a web animation series running from 2013 which is growing in popularity but still fairly small and she took on Tifa Lockhart. Yang defeated her more popular opponent. Bucky wasn't so fortunate.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold gave A Day in the Limelight to many C-list DC heroes, some of whom had never had a televised appearance before. Things began getting weird in Batman's Strangest Cases, when the Scooby-Doo gang show up, but the concept wasn't entirely new. Then Space Ghost got his own cameo. For reference, after DC acquired the rights to Space Ghost, he was only used in a single short-lived series in 2005, and the character is only otherwise known for his Self-Parody talk show.
  • Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Almost everyone, in-universe and out, believed that he was dead after his bisection in The Phantom Menace. Filoni even said in a Behind the Scenes video that they deliberately made Savage Oppress a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Maul explicitly so they wouldn't bring him back. Also, Darth Bane, who appears as a vision in "Sacrifice", given that he was from the Old Republic era in the Expanded Universe and therefore dead.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Iroh and Zhao appear in the Spirit World in season two.
    • Book Four's greatest irony is that it is Zaheer who helps Korra to recover from her past traumas. Not to mention the unexpected return of Hiroshi Sato. Apparently, Book Four is full of Heel Face Turns.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Derpy Hooves appearing as Rainbow Dash's replacement in "Rainbow Falls". One of her previous appearances had sparked off a massive controversy and Internet Backdraft that resulted in the character being absent from season three and all the released episodes of season four up to that point, leaving most of the fanbase to assume that she had been removed from the show completely. Compounding the surprise is that aside from one or two extremely vague hints from the staff, none of the show's promotional materials so much as hinted that the character would be returning.
    • Cherry Jubilee of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates in "Equestria Games".
    • The season 4 finale features Tirek, the Big Bad of the G1 TV special "Rescue at Midnight Castle", as the main antagonist. What makes him so unexpected is that Hasbro had lost the trademarks to many of their G1 characters (besides Applejack and Spike and some others), and that the showrunners had explicitly avoided using creatures that looked too human (besides that spin-off about humans).
    • Similarly, season 5 has an episode featuring the Smooze, of all creatures. Though unlike Tirek (who is, if possible, even more evil here than he was in the original) the Smooze seems to be comparatively harmless.
  • In the Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then, her role basically going to pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man Web Warriors (which airs on Disney XD) an episode featured Jessie Prescott, a character from a Disney Channel live-action show.
  • The addition of Spider-Man to The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! might have caught some viewers by surprise, since he rarely makes guest appearances in other Marvel characters' cartoons. (The previous time he had a speaking role in someone else's show happened over 30 years earlier, in Spider-Woman's animated series.) Additionally, none of the previews or trailers for the second season showed him, at least not before the season began. It seemed even more unexpected for Spidey to become a reserve Avenger.
  • In the animatic preview for the plans for Galactic Kids Next Door released on April 1, 2015, no one expected Lizzie, Numbuh One's former girlfriend, to appear, and certainly not as Numbuh Vine, the alien who sent out the warning about the G:KND's plans.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) has its interpretation of Lord Dregg, who replaced the Shredder as the main antagonist in the last two seasons of the 1987 show. Since not many fans were fond of Dregg, it is surprising that the people behind the Nickelodeon series would even think of bringing him back.
  • In Phineas And Ferb Star Wars, since it was set as their version of A New Hope, no one expected Darth Maul, or at least Ferb as an expy of Darth Maul after being hit with Darthinshmirtz' Sith-inator
  • Did anyone expect to see characters from the Hanna-Barbera Moby Dick cartoon, Dynomutt Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, The Funky Phantom and Jonny Quest show up in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated? Hell, the protagonists of the Moby Dick cartoon are said to be the children of characters from Sealab 2020!

Alternative Title(s): The Unexpected

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnexpectedCharacter